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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Meeting of the Parliament (Hybrid) 27 October 2020

Agenda: Time for Reflection, Business Motion, Topical Question Time, Inward Investment Plan, Covid-19: Scotland’s Strategic Framework, Decision Time, Student Paramedics (Bursary Support)


Contents


Business Motion

The next item of business is consideration of business motion S5M-23149, in the name of Graeme Dey, on behalf of the Parliamentary Bureau, which sets out revisions to this week’s business.

Motion moved,

That the Parliament agrees to the following revisions to the programme of business on—

(a) Tuesday 27 October 2020

delete

followed by Ministerial Statement: Miners’ Strike Review

followed by Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee Debate: Energy Inquiry

and insert

followed by Ministerial Statement: Shaping Scotland’s Economy: Scotland’s Inward Investment Plan

followed by Scottish Government Debate: COVID-19: Scotland’s Strategic Framework

delete

5.00 pm Decision Time

and insert

7.00 pm Decision Time

(b) Wednesday 28 October 2020

after

2.00 pm Portfolio Questions:
Constitution, Europe and External Affairs;
Economy, Fair Work and Culture

insert

followed by Ministerial Statement: Miners’ Strike Review

delete

followed by Scottish Government Business

and insert

followed by Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee Debate: Energy Inquiry

delete

5.00 pm Decision Time

and insert

5.20 pm Decision Time

(c) Thursday 29 October 2020

after

2.30 pm Portfolio Questions:
Education and Skills

insert

followed by Ministerial Statement: An Update on the Impact of EU Exit on Scotland’s Further and Higher Education Sectors

delete

5.00 pm Decision Time

and insert

5.05 pm Decision Time—[Graeme Dey.]

Elaine Smith wishes to speak against the motion.

14:04  

I rise to oppose the business motion on behalf of Scottish Labour. I do so with regret, because this situation could have been avoided if the Government had consented to the Covid restrictions scrutiny that was already agreed to by the Parliamentary Bureau and that had been notified to members. Instead, public scrutiny by the Parliament has been reduced and curtailed, with announcements made to the press and not to Parliament. That is completely unacceptable in such a serious situation, in which lives are being lost to the virus, draconian restrictions imposed and livelihoods adversely affected.

The bureau had agreed to a statement by the First Minister today with questions from members. That was at my request, as I felt that it was vital for as many members as possible to be able to question the First Minister directly following the recess, to scrutinise the effectiveness of the strict 16-day measures that Scotland has been subjected to. The bureau then scheduled for tomorrow a debate to discuss the Government’s approach to Covid-19 going forward and then a vote on the matter, to allow MSPs to give their views on the new proposals. That would have given members the time to digest the complicated new plans that the First Minister is now instigating in her latest attempt to slow the spread of the virus and to consider replies to the myriad questions that would have been posed by MSPs on behalf of the people we are elected to serve.

I also requested consideration of a recall of Parliament last week, as I was concerned that a major announcement was going to be made at the First Minister’s daily press conference. As Labour’s business manager, I have consistently argued that the First Minister must make major announcements to Parliament and not at press conferences, in the interests of democracy and scrutiny. However, others on the bureau at that point did not favour a recall, and I understood that that was because no major announcement was expected and that there was due to be a ministerial statement today, to allow for parliamentary scrutiny. However, of course, a major announcement was made last Thursday that is affecting hundreds of jobs, particularly in the hospitality sector, that is keeping businesses closed for at least another week and that is retaining restrictions that affect people’s rights and freedoms.

No consultation was undertaken before the 16-day lockdown. However, we were all assured by the First Minister that this was a

“short and sharp action to arrest a worrying increase in infection”,—[Official Report, 7 October 2020; c 28.]

and she promised to “keep the Parliament updated”. Obviously, it is not short and sharp, because it does not seem to have worked, and the Parliament has not been updated. We are being sidelined with the cancellation of today’s statement and question session, and the people we represent are being left with no answers to their many questions. It is even more galling because the First Minister has been keen to say that she is open to scrutiny—so why not by members of the Parliament today, with questions?

We are being asked to support a motion today to simply note the Scottish Government’s decisions—not to agree or endorse, as has been trailed in the media, but just to note, which means that we are merely observers. What is the point in voting on the motion when we are being asked simply to note the Government’s decisions? Why does the Government avoid having its actions and plans subjected to questions, instead wanting a debate on a motion that asks us to take note—a debate in which, because of the d’Hondt system, the majority of slots are allocated to the Scottish National Party? Why are other parties going along with that?

We are now at a point where Parliament must have a much greater role in scrutinising the Government on Covid, particularly when it is dictating its plans rather than fully involving all parliamentarians in those decisions. The people we represent are being harmed in many ways—not only by Covid-19 but by the actions taken in the response to tackle it, in terms of their mental and physical health, their financial situation and the loss of freedoms, human rights and civil liberties.

Given the gravity of the situation, we, as parliamentarians, need to be able to thoroughly scrutinise the First Minister and her Government to ensure that their actions are proportionate to the level of threat that society faces, and we need disclosure of the full facts to be able to do that. The Parliament is not being given that opportunity today, nor tomorrow; therefore, with regret, I move against the business motion.

14:09  

When the bureau, by majority, approved this week’s changed business plan, it sanctioned the staging of a three-hour-long debate on Covid restriction changes and an extended topical questions session. The primary thinking behind that was to accommodate as many Covid-related questions as is reasonably possible. Members will note that four of the five topical questions that the Presiding Officer has selected for today are Covid themed.

Unfortunately, the opposing of business had the potential to eat significantly into that additional time and thereby reduce the opportunity for those members who were selected to ask their questions, and for others, to raise topical questions. Alive to that, the bureau returned to the matter a couple of hours ago and agreed a further 30-minute extension to decision time, to preserve the maximum opportunity for questions.

On behalf of the bureau, and in keeping with our desire to afford the optimum chance for colleagues to participate in the extended topical questions session, I will conclude there, save to ask members to approve the business motion and, furthermore, to allow Parliament to get on with debating in detail “COVID-19: Scotland’s Strategic Framework”.

On a point of order, Presiding Officer, will you clarify whether, under the standing orders, it is the bureau that agrees the number of topical questions and what they are or whether it is you, as the Presiding Officer, who does so?

The topical questions are my choice, but the allocation of time is for the bureau to recommend, and it is a decision for the whole Parliament—the matter is put to members and they decide on the allocation of time.

The question is, that motion S5M-23149 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

There will be a division. I will summon members to the chamber and let members who are participating remotely know that they can dial in. I therefore suspend proceedings for a few moments until we can get members on to the remote access voting system.

14:11 Meeting suspended.  

14:21 On resuming—  

We resume business with members online and in the chamber. We move to the vote on motion S5M-23149, in the name of Graeme Dey, on a revised business motion. Members may cast their votes now. This will be a one-minute division.

For

Adam, George (Paisley) (SNP)
Adamson, Clare (Motherwell and Wishaw) (SNP)
Allan, Alasdair (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP)
Arthur, Tom (Renfrewshire South) (SNP)
Balfour, Jeremy (Lothian) (Con)
Ballantyne, Michelle (South Scotland) (Con)
Briggs, Miles (Lothian) (Con)
Brown, Keith (Clackmannanshire and Dunblane) (SNP)
Burnett, Alexander (Aberdeenshire West) (Con)
Carlaw, Jackson (Eastwood) (Con)
Cole-Hamilton, Alex (Edinburgh Western) (LD)
Constance, Angela (Almond Valley) (SNP)
Corry, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Crawford, Bruce (Stirling) (SNP)
Cunningham, Roseanna (Perthshire South and Kinross-shire) (SNP)
Davidson, Ruth (Edinburgh Central) (Con)
Denham, Ash (Edinburgh Eastern) (SNP)
Dey, Graeme (Angus South) (SNP)
Doris, Bob (Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn) (SNP)
Dornan, James (Glasgow Cathcart) (SNP)
Ewing, Annabelle (Cowdenbeath) (SNP)
Ewing, Fergus (Inverness and Nairn) (SNP)
Fabiani, Linda (East Kilbride) (SNP)
Finnie, John (Highlands and Islands) (Green)
FitzPatrick, Joe (Dundee City West) (SNP)
Forbes, Kate (Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch) (SNP)
Fraser, Murdo (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Freeman, Jeane (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (SNP)
Gibson, Kenneth (Cunninghame North) (SNP)
Gilruth, Jenny (Mid Fife and Glenrothes) (SNP)
Golden, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Gougeon, Mairi (Angus North and Mearns) (SNP)
Grahame, Christine (Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale) (SNP)
Greene, Jamie (West Scotland) (Con)
Greer, Ross (West Scotland) (Green)
Halcro Johnston, Jamie (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Hamilton, Rachael (Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire) (Con)
Harris, Alison (Central Scotland) (Con)
Harvie, Patrick (Glasgow) (Green)
Haughey, Clare (Rutherglen) (SNP)
Hepburn, Jamie (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth) (SNP)
Hyslop, Fiona (Linlithgow) (SNP)
Johnstone, Alison (Lothian) (Green)
Kerr, Liam (North East Scotland) (Con)
Kidd, Bill (Glasgow Anniesland) (SNP)
Lindhurst, Gordon (Lothian) (Con)
Lockhart, Dean (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Lyle, Richard (Uddingston and Bellshill) (SNP)
MacDonald, Angus (Falkirk East) (SNP)
MacGregor, Fulton (Coatbridge and Chryston) (SNP)
Mackay, Rona (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)
Macpherson, Ben (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (SNP)
Maguire, Ruth (Cunninghame South) (SNP)
Martin, Gillian (Aberdeenshire East) (SNP)
Mason, John (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)
Mason, Tom (North East Scotland) (Con)
McAlpine, Joan (South Scotland) (SNP)
McArthur, Liam (Orkney Islands) (LD)
McKee, Ivan (Glasgow Provan) (SNP)
McKelvie, Christina (Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse) (SNP)
McMillan, Stuart (Greenock and Inverclyde) (SNP)
Mitchell, Margaret (Central Scotland) (Con)
Mountain, Edward (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Mundell, Oliver (Dumfriesshire) (Con)
Rennie, Willie (North East Fife) (LD)
Robison, Shona (Dundee City East) (SNP)
Ross, Gail (Caithness, Sutherland and Ross) (SNP)
Rumbles, Mike (North East Scotland) (LD)
Russell, Michael (Argyll and Bute) (SNP)
Scott, John (Ayr) (Con)
Stevenson, Stewart (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)
Stewart, Alexander (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Stewart, Kevin (Aberdeen Central) (SNP)
Swinney, John (Perthshire North) (SNP)
Todd, Maree (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)
Tomkins, Adam (Glasgow) (Con)
Torrance, David (Kirkcaldy) (SNP)
Watt, Maureen (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)
Wells, Annie (Glasgow) (Con)
Wheelhouse, Paul (South Scotland) (SNP)
Whittle, Brian (South Scotland) (Con)
Wightman, Andy (Lothian) (Green)
Yousaf, Humza (Glasgow Pollok) (SNP)

Against

Baillie, Jackie (Dumbarton) (Lab)
Baker, Claire (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)
Beamish, Claudia (South Scotland) (Lab)
Bibby, Neil (West Scotland) (Lab)
Boyack, Sarah (Lothian) (Lab)
Fee, Mary (West Scotland) (Lab)
Findlay, Neil (Lothian) (Lab)
Grant, Rhoda (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)
Gray, Iain (East Lothian) (Lab)
Griffin, Mark (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Johnson, Daniel (Edinburgh Southern) (Lab)
Kelly, James (Glasgow) (Lab)
Lamont, Johann (Glasgow) (Lab)
Lennon, Monica (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Leonard, Richard (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Macdonald, Lewis (North East Scotland) (Lab)
McNeill, Pauline (Glasgow) (Lab)
Rowley, Alex (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)
Sarwar, Anas (Glasgow) (Lab)
Smith, Elaine (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Smyth, Colin (South Scotland) (Lab)
Stewart, David (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)

The result of the division is: For 83, Against 22, Abstentions 0.

Motion agreed to,

That the Parliament agrees to the following revisions to the programme of business on—

(a) Tuesday 27 October 2020

delete

followed by Ministerial Statement: Miners’ Strike Review

followed by Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee Debate: Energy Inquiry

and insert

followed by Ministerial Statement: Shaping Scotland’s Economy: Scotland’s Inward Investment Plan

followed by Scottish Government Debate: COVID-19: Scotland’s Strategic Framework

delete

5.00 pm Decision Time

and insert

7.00 pm Decision Time

(b) Wednesday 28 October 2020

after

2.00 pm Portfolio Questions:
Constitution, Europe and External Affairs;
Economy, Fair Work and Culture

insert

followed by Ministerial Statement: Miners’ Strike Review

delete

followed by Scottish Government Business

and insert

followed by Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee Debate: Energy Inquiry

delete

5.00 pm Decision Time

and insert

5.20 pm Decision Time

(c) Thursday 29 October 2020

after

2.30 pm Portfolio Questions:
Education and Skills

insert

followed by Ministerial Statement: An Update on the Impact of EU Exit on Scotland’s Further and Higher Education Sectors

delete

5.00 pm Decision Time

and insert

5.05 pm Decision Time

Before we move on to the next item of business, I would like to make a few remarks. Members will be aware that, seven months on from the imposition of restrictions, I have spoken in recent weeks about the need for Parliament to reassert its vital role in scrutinising the very difficult decisions that ministers are taking, often necessarily, with some urgency.

Colleagues on the Parliamentary Bureau are continuing to discuss how we can create more and earlier opportunities for accountability and participation in the policy choices that affect the daily lives of the people we represent, and for consideration of the impact that those decisions are having on the economy and the best ways to keep people safe. That Parliament-led approach is shaped by all members and recognises the significant role of committees. I hope that colleagues will take the time to contribute any thoughts, comments or practical ideas about how we can improve Covid-related scrutiny before the bureau’s meeting next week.

Sitting alongside that work, I will continue to explore with the Minister for Parliamentary Business and Veterans how we might create more consistency and transparency for members—and, indeed, the public—in relation to how announcements are being made.

Finally, I emphasise to all members that I am determined to ensure that Parliament’s position is respected and that you have the opportunities and time that you need to raise your concerns on behalf of your constituents.